Homes & Design Photo Credit: Janis Nicolay

Expert Advice: How to Stay Organized Over the Holidays

Professional organizer Marie Potter shares her best tips for keeping your home clean and tidy during the busy holiday season.

Marie Potter has fond memories of her mother’s tree trimming parties: family, friends and neighbours would come around to hang an ornament or two and indulge in some special holiday punch. These days, Potter carries on the tradition with her own kids, supplying hot chocolate as she shares out the decorating burden—but her tree looks a bit different.

“My mother’s tree was totally eclectic,” she remembers. “I don’t think there were two decorations on it that were the same.” But this professional organizer likes a little more order in her life, so she settled on a colour scheme for cohesion: pink, turquoise and purple decor add a seasonal touch to Potter’s black and white living room.

Of course, tree ornaments are only the start of the clutter that accumulates around this time of year—and to organize everything else, a colour scheme doesn’t always cut it. Between gifts, wrap and all those sentimental keepsakes—not to mention countless social engagements—the holidays can be a disorderly time. “It’s a love/hate relationship,” says Potter. “People love the lead up, the anticipation, the feeling…but then they get in the middle of it and feel a little overwhelmed.” Staying organized, she says, is key to an enjoyable holiday season. Want to keep your sanity this Christmas? Potter breaks it down into five easy steps.

We hang onto homemade decor for years—try whittling down the collection to save space.

1. Picture This

Keepsakes pile up, so take a photo of them, then purge. “The memory is in your mind, not in the actual thing,” Potter says—which means it’s time to toss the macaroni and paper plate wreath your child made way back when.

2. Donate Decor

Donate other decorations early so that others can appreciate them this year. Potter says that the majority of charitable organizations receive seasonal decor after the holidays have ended—which means they have to store them for an entire year.

Don’t want to use the same decor as last year? Try donating your older decorations before the holiday season so that others have the chance to use them right away—and to help save charitable organization from having to store them for an entire year.

3. Shelf Space

“People always have one wild thing in the fridge that was required for one recipe and then they never used again,” Potter says. “It’s taking up valuable real estate!” You’ll need that space come the holidays, so now’s the time to clear the fridge out.

4. Off the Table

When stowing holiday leftovers, bypass plastic containers in favour of resealable bags. “You can squish them into weird shapes and they don’t take up as much space,” explains Potter. While you’re at it, freeze that little bit of leftover wine in ice cube trays—they’re perfect for cooking with later.

An organized gift wrapping station will save you loads of valuable time.

5. That’s a Wrap

Stow gift wrap upright in a laundry basket, hang ribbon rolls on a dowel rod and stash bags within those of like size. You may also consider setting up a permanent gift wrap station, as Potter has done for numerous clients: “once they hear about it, they have to have it!”

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